Lighting dates as far back as we can remember. In the days before electricity, when fires, candles and lanterns were used, lighting would obviously help us see in the dark but it has the added benefit of connecting people and making us feel safe.
Our natural ‘body clock’ takes signals from the sunlight and we’re designed to rise, work and reset with the sun, and rest when it gets dark.
Light and Health
In today’s world however, we seem to have lost sight of our natural body clock – aka. ‘circadian rhythms’. Unfortunately, with the evolution of artificial light, we’re romanced with the idea of sleeping, eating, travelling and working whenever we want, BUT our bodies are suffering enormously.
Modern life has imposed an unnatural order where we use artificial light for activity when we should be resting. The term for this is light pollution.
Abnormal or irregular circadian rhythms have been linked to obesity, diabetes, bipolar and depression disorders.
Cool v. Warm
There are two options when it comes to artificial lighting choices – cool and warm. It’s important to understand the difference between the two so you can choose the right one for your activity or space.
Cool light has a blue undertone and is used on our devices, in hospitals and schools. Cool light is best for areas where you need to be awake, alert, focussed, task oriented.
Warm light has a red undertone which can be found in moody bars and even in homes. Warm light is best for areas where you need to unwind and relax.
Cool light would not work in a bar where you want people to relax and linger. Just like warm light would not work in an office environment where you need to be productive.
Humans need 2 hours of dim light before bed to unwind. Anymore than that won’t do you any good. People exposed to dim light (leave the tv on all night) can show signs of clinical depression.
If you need a light at bed, use one with a red light – not white light. Most phones now have a ‘night shift’ mode where the screen light changes from white to red. Handy for when you’re in bed scrolling through your feed!
The sun’s UV light positively influences our mood and is a natural trigger for Vitamin D, strong bones and serotonin and dopamine – our brains feel good chemicals.
Light is measured in ‘lux’. Sunlight emits 10,000 lux. Room lighting emits 50-500 lux.
So you can see the problem for hospitals, schools and workplaces where people are limited to natural daylight for days on end. So using natural light as the main source of light in our buildings has so many positive effects on our mood, emotions, relationships and decisions in life. There are endless flow on effects for our health, the environment and economy.
My reset button
Over the last 12 months I’ve experienced life as an entrepreneur working from my home office day in, day out. I became addicted to my work and could never get through my ‘to do’ list. As much as I love my work, my sleep begun to suffer and so did my health. I cancelled my yoga classes and made no time to exercise and pretty soon realised I could spend days in my apartment without leaving or talking to anyone.
When I changed one simple thing like starting my daily 30min walk each morning, my sleep started to improve. I learned that something as simple as the sun helps to reset my body clock giving me energy and focus for the day.
I also had to learn the discipline of logging off at a certain time and reduce the amount of white light I was exposing myself to. Now I’m back to my 7-8 hours of sleep every night and have more energy and focus to do my best work!
Lighting in Design
We need to get better at designing our buildings and interiors to support our genetic rhythms and restore the natural order of things in our lives.
When designing, decorating or renovating most people forget about the sun. Consider how much sunlight you’ll get in your home at various times throughout the day and this can help you decide on colours, furniture layout and room functions.
If your space is dark or lacking in light, then the obvious choice is to install more windows, open or lighten the colour of your window shades. But ultimately, you should make time to get outside – even for 20mins per day.
If you have time to buy a coffee or eat, then make sure it’s outdoors!
If you want to feel happier and healthier, reduce your exposure to artificial light and help your body return to its natural rhythm.
Questions to ask yourself when choosing light
- How is the space being used?
- Who is using the space?
- When / what time of day is the space being used?
- Does this change?
- What sort of feeling do you want the user to feel in the space? Soothing, relaxing, productive.. etc
With so many options and innovative solutions on the market today, there is a lighting solution for everyone. Do your homework and choose the right bulb to suit your home or office. It doesn’t have to be boring either – make sure you choose a lighting feature that makes you smile every time you turn it on.